Sunday, December 28, 2008

A New War

Anyone who has been watching the news over the past few days is aware of the recent conflict that has renewed itself in the Gaza Strip. For many people, including those involved (mainly in Gaza) this came as a surprise, but anyone who who had been following the events leading up to the Israeli attack and who understood basic military tactics, the Israeli attack comes as no surprise. What is notable about the western media news coverage of the event is the emphasis placed on reporting the Palestinian side and version of the story and almost ignoring the Palestinian response and provocation that lead up the the attack.

I have read many news stories about the attacks from both CNN and the BBC and in both cases they treat the Israeli attack as coming without any prior indication or reason. The way the news stories are being reported they make it seem like the Palestinians had a dispute with Israel, they fought over it, had a ceasefire for a while and when the ceasefire ended Israel attacked. They make it seem like these events happened in a vacuum and were unrelated previous events, or at most because of the failed peace talks. In other words the media is treating this like an event that hasn't been building up for years, they treat it as totally unexpected.

It addition to the views of the media it is interesting (or not) to find out the views of individual people, like me, who read the news, but aren't involved. When I went to read the comments left by the readers they ranged from the absurd to the rational, from the helpful to the hateful. They blamed everyone, from Hamas to Israel, to President Bush himself (and his dog too). The comments that were anti-Israeli were usually along the lines of (not a direct quote), "We think they are wrong and isn't it terrible that they are killing INNOCENT people" (the innocent, in all caps, is a direct quote). My favorite was (direct quote [sic]) "to be honest i'm quite shocked at the comments below especially by the Americans, claiming Israel has the right to defend itself." So the anti-Israeli position can be summed up as "Israel does not have the right to defend itself and/or they are the root and cause of all these problems, and because they are the cause of these problems they should not defend themselves."

The pro-Israeli position tends to be "They have a right to defend themselves and they should defend themselves, because Hamas was the one that did not want peace."

So the blame game happens and both sides blame the other and everyone else blames someone. It is easy to see that this is a touchy subject and many people feel strongly about this. I have my own feelings about the situation but I will not share them here at the moment, but I may do that in a later post. I thought that I would give a perspective on the situation, that not many people are noticing, and certainly very few, if any at all, news reporters are noting.

So here is the situation, and this is most likely the situation that will be given in the history books.

This conflict has been building for some time. Hamas has been severed from Fatah by being largely contained in Gaza. Fatah will not support Hamas to any great extent. Hamas has alienated just about everyone that could potentially help them. They even lost the support of Egypt. Their only main support comes from Syria and Iran, and that support is problematic, or limited to words (and a few covert operations). Hamas declared the ceasefire over and opted not to renew, which will cause legal (i.e. technical bureaucratic) difficulties in the UN and in the international community at large. If anything Israel (and the US) can use that technicality to stall UN resolutions, and other peacekeeping initiatives.

In Israel itself, they are getting ready for elections and the current party in power has been accused of not doing enough to prevent the rocket attacks. Their presidential candidate, Tzipi Livni, had been viewed as "too soft" on the Palestinian "terrorists" (hardly true, but oh well), while the main opposition poised to upset her bid to be president, is viewed as being even more "hardline" against Hamas. So when the two possible candidates for the presidency are "pro-action and armed response" it can be assumed that something will be done.

Furthermore, in the US George Bush has less than 30 days in office and can't really do much (it's a standard part of the last days of a lame duck presidency). Barak Obama is going to be president soon, but he is not president yet, so he can't do anything. France has the presidency of the EU until the end of the year, when it goes to the Czech Republic, whose president is one of the most outspoken critics of the EU and refuses to fly the EU flag over the presidential palace. Don't expect much action from him. No one else really has the clout, the initiative or the desire to get involved. Most of the world is more concerned about keeping their job and/or feeding themselves at the moment to try to do anything to help.

In short, Gaza has fallen into a political black hole at the precise moment when everyone else they have traditionally relied upon, is not in a position nor has the desire to help. They are in effect, between a rock and a hard place with nowhere to go. They could not have picked a worse time to end the ceasefire, and Israel is taking full advantage of the situation. The only wild card in the whole situation is how the Arab world (not including the Egyptians, but including the Iranians) will respond. That is the only trouble. The Arab/Iranian world may respond with force, which will make things very complicated.

Despite the fact that there is a war going on, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I will follow the developments.


James said...

A very interesting commentary. Where do you find time to read about this stuff? In any event, even though neither Israel or Palestine produce any oil, the oil speculators will use this war as an excuse to raise oil prices again.

Jared said...

"the oil speculators will use this war as an excuse to raise oil prices again."

Of course, because Israel is in the Mid-East and oil is in the Mid-East. Therefore, anything affecting Israel must affect oil. We all know correlation means causation. :)

Euripides said...

Thought you might like this political cartoon. Not everyone is taken in by the media blitz against Israel.